The Program of West Palm Beach, Florida – Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center

What About the Legitimate Painkiller Patients?


The shut down of pill mills has left legitimate painkiller patients without their medications.

When the DEA released new regulations on prescription drugs last year, the intended outcome was to stop the abuse of painkillers like Vicodin. But by cracking down on how doctors prescribe these drugs and how often patients can refill them, it is the patients with actual chronic pain who are suffering the consequences.

Doctors say DEA enforcement actions have made it harder for them to prescribe narcotics. Last year, hydrocodone products, such as Vicodin, were changed to Schedule II status, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and cannot be prescribed in large quantities.

Patients Treated Like Criminals

In Florida, where authorities have shut down over 250 pill mills, at one point was the mecca for the trafficking of illegal prescription drugs. That was, until a few years ago. Now, with the restrictions, pharmacies like CVS have prioritized its anti-abuse efforts in the state rather than the patients who genuinely need the meds.

CVS/caremark said it has a legal obligation to make sure controlled substance prescriptions are for legitimate ailments and “that patients are receiving safe medication therapy, including appropriate dosing.”

The DEA investigated both CVS and Walgreens, and both pharmacy chains settled civil suits in 2013 for record-keeping violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Walgreens paid an $80 million civil penalty, and CVS paid an $11 million penalty.

Last year, the DEA told Bill Napier, who owns Panama Pharmacy in Jacksonville FL that he was dispensing too many narcotics. So they seized all his opioid prescriptions for seven months leaving his customers without much needed medications. No pharmacy wants this to happen so they have tightened the reins on who gets pain pills and how much?

There’s no easy way to fight a drug war in which the line between pain patient and addict is often razor thin — and blurs if patients become addicted or start selling their medications. Chronic pain patients are scrimping on dosages to extend prescriptions and many patients say pharmacists are treating them like drug addicts.

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